red flannel pantry

creative pursuits in the kitchen, garden, library and sewing room

kitty-cat catch-up

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Back in December, I was doing well keeping pace with Elizabeth Hartman’s Cat Quilt-Along–until my college kids came home. Their company and accompanying holiday fun derailed my block-a-day plans–that’s ok.

I’m back at it. Here are Victor, Boogie, Amelia, Max, Violet and Maslow (x 2). Only three more to go!

cardinal waiting for safflower

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One to three inches of snow is forecast for today. I’m going to fill the safflower feeder for the cardinals now so that chore is taken care of before the storm moves in.

hand-me-down UFOs and Sunbonnet Sue

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Last week my husband spent several days with his sisters helping their parents downsize and move into an independent living community. Many of our friends have gone through this process with their parents, and a key bit of advice they shared was, when offered something, accept it graciously. . . and decide later what to do with it. In the end, my husband didn’t return home with much beyond these two sacks of knitting and crocheting that belonged to my mother-in-law. I know how much angst can be wrapped up in these unfinished projects, so I’m glad my husband knew to take them off her hands. I’ll see if any of my knitting friends (or maybe my knitting newbie daughter) are interested in these supplies. Otherwise, I’ll give them to Goodwill. I hope someday someone will gently part my UFOs from me–and that there will be so few that they will fit in two small plastic bags!

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Inside one of the bags I found this Kansas City Star article published in April 1998. It tells the story of a deviant Sunbonnet Sue quilt named “The Sun Sets on Sunbonnet Sue”. In 1979, the quilt’s creators, members of the Seamsters Union Local 500 in Lawrence, Kansas, created blocks in which they depicted various ways of killing off smarmy Sunbonnet Sue. The needlework judges at the Sunflower State Expo in Topeka, Kansas deemed the quilt “unacceptable” and would only allow it to be displayed face down on a table so visitors couldn’t see the various dastardly ways the quilters had depicted Sue being done in.

I knew I had to see this quilt–a quick Google search revealed it to be at the Great Lakes Quilt Center in the Michigan State University Museum. You can see it here. In looking through the close-ups of the blocks, I learned that Barbara Brackman, a well-respected quilt author, was part of the Seamsters and made two of the blocks–a fun fact.

There’s more to the story. In 1997, another group of Lawrence, Kansas quilters (Seamsters Union Local 925) decided to create a spin-off Sunbonnet Sue murder quilt: “Death Becomes Her.” You can see it and read about it here. The quilt was exhibited at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum. While there, it too was found offensive and removed from display (read about it here)–geez louise.

My mother-in-law has a small doll-size Sunbonnet Sue quilt, so a friend must have clipped the article for her knowing she’d get a kick out of all of the fuss–and I did too!

lunch bag–oilcloth vs laminated cotton

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Daughter #2 has been hinting the past few weeks that she’d really like a new lunch bag. Her old one, which I made 6 or 7 years ago, had become beaten up, with the edges peeling off.

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I looked back through my files for the original tutorial from 2007, found some oilcloth in my stash, and made this one. Cute as can be but  . . .

. . . something made me look up oilcloth, and I learned that it contains phthalates (scary, scary stuff) and is now considered not food safe–yikes. This information was not available when I made the first one–sigh. So after doing more research, I decided to make yet another lunch bag, this time from laminated cotton, which is PVC free, BPA free, lead free, and Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) compliant. You can read how oilcloth and laminated cotton compare here.

Since the edges of laminated cotton, like those of oilcloth, do not fray, I opted to use the same lunch bag pattern. There are lots of clever designs for lunch bags out there. I showed several to D#2, but she insisted on the same exact one (but no Velcro please!).

I found some pretty Amy Butler laminated cotton at the fabric store. Laminated cotton has a soft drape compared to oilcloth. I put Insul-Brite batting between the layers to provide insulation and add some structure to the bag.

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Clover Wonder clips, which weren’t around when I made her first lunch bag back in 2007, hold layers together tightly without creating holes like pins would.

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When making both bags, I found that after I sewed the first side panel to the main panel, I was left with exactly 1 inch extra at the top. (Is the pattern for the main panel off an inch or are my sewing abilities at fault?–a mystery.) I carefully cut it off using a ruler and rotary cutter and then sewed the other side panel in place, which fit just fine.

There’s a helpful post at Pink Chalk Studio about sewing with laminated cotton, and Debbie at A Quilter’s Table has a post about oilcloth pillows and then offers a bunch of links related to laminated cotton and oilcloth sewing tips and projects. I used a regular walking foot and regular needle to make both bags, although I should have probably used a denim needle when sewing the oilcloth. I also used a slightly longer stitch length. If I were to sew with this stuff regularly, I would consider investing in a Teflon foot. When sewing, I found the laminated cotton less “sticky” than the oilcloth.

Now, what should I do with the rest of my oilcloth? I like this bunting idea and this one. I enjoyed sewing with the laminated cotton–I could see using it for chair cushions, a double-sided picnic blanket, or tote bags.

suet success!

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I had a first taker for the suet I made: a female red-bellied woodpecker. Based on others’ observations and insights, I’ve temporarily removed the peanut feeder, and that seems to have eliminated starling visits, at least for now. I’ve read that although starlings can’t hang upside down to eat like woodpeckers, they will do their best hummingbird imitations in their attempts to reach suet in this type of feeder–that’s something I’d like to see! Nuthatches, woodpeckers and chickadees can feed from below, so I’m looking forward to other visitors stopping by.

getting a grip

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Lori Kennedy, of The Inbox Jaunt, is presenting a quilt notebook series to offer help in taking control of unfinished projects. I’m guilty of starting more projects than I finish, so in channeling Lori’s message, I set my most recent unfinished projects on my sewing table and have begun knocking them out.

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I had meant to make a pile of these suitcase handle wraps as stocking stuffers, but I succeeded in getting only one finished in time for Christmas as a gift for my daughter. That’s what happens when I dish too much on my pre-holiday gifts-to-make plate.

I thought today I’d sew the rest that I had cut out. I always feel silly when the task I put off takes so little time to complete–and indeed, this batch took me less than an hour to finish up.

Now that I have a feel-good mini-finish, it’s on to the next.

starling for dinner

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Our resident hawk paid a visit today, landing atop the feeder pole and looking at the little decorative metal bird as if to say, I was planning to eat you!

His visit reminded me of the last time I saw him. It was a snowy day a few weeks ago. I had gone out to shovel and noticed that the bird bath was running low. I returned inside to fill a plastic pitcher with water when I saw that a greedy group of starlings had descended on the peanuts I had left on a patio table. Squawking and tumbling over one another in a dizzy flurry of feathers, they were oblivious to the hawk, who swooped down and plucked one from the crowd.

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The survivors scattered.  Clutching his prey, the hawk landed in the snow a few feet away. Each time the unfortunate starling struggled, the hawk gripped tighter. After a few minutes, the hawk flew off with his meal.

making suet

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I’ve been thinking about making suet for a while. I researched it online (lard vs bacon grease?), ripped recipes out of Birds & Blooms and saved plastic suet containers. Then last week out of the blue my friend Sally handed me a suet recipe she had gotten from Roy and Charlotte Lukes, long-time Door County Wisconsin naturalists–it was a sign to get cooking!

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Daughter #2 helped me. Photobomber Bud was thinking we were whipping up an afternoon snack for him.

You can find the Lukes’ recipe here. I thought it would be difficult to find lard at the grocery store, but there it was, in the refrigerated section by the hams. I followed the microwave method of melting the lard and peanut butter, and then I dumped the rest of the ingredients on top and stirred to combine. I also added a box of currants that were past their prime.

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I scooped the mixture into the 9-oz suet containers I had saved and a couple of grapefruit halves (thanks, Kate and Ken!) and put them in the refrigerator to solidify.

I’ll let you know in a couple of days what the birds have to say about my new avian catering business.

flora, fauna and fabric in LA

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My husband, Daughter #2 and I visited Los Angeles last weekend and had a fabulous time. D#2 and I had never been there before, so traveling from our freezing temps to sunny and unseasonably warm (even for there) southern California was a bit surreal. At Griffith Observatory we spied this little hummer buzzing around plantings at the base of the Astronomers Monument. I think it was an Anna’s hummingbird. See the dusting of pollen on her beak?

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Also at Griffith Observatory, this wee hummingbird paused long enough for me to snap a quick photo. My guess is that it was a black-chinned hummingbird. Like the other, she also had a pollen smudge on her beak.

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While at Venice Beach, we visited with fauna of the domestic variety at Small World Books, a quiet intellectual haven in all of the craziness. Conan is the resident cat librarian; he gladly assumed a studied casual pose for us Midwestern tourists.

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The Getty Center stunned us with its gardens and architecture (we bow down to you, Richard Meier).

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It felt like we were at Starfleet Academy.

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On our last day there, my husband and daughter indulged me in visiting Sew Modern. We arrived before official opening hours, but the door was propped open because some renovation work inside the store was in progress. The owners kindly welcomed us in and let me prowl around while I wished I had a huge empty suitcase to cram full of fabric.

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However, showing a great deal of restraint, I walked out with only these lovely pieces.

birthday blankets

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For a couple of Daughter #2’s friends turning another year older, I made lanyards and fleece blankets.

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What better way to celebrate than with high tea?! Happy Birthday girls!

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